Preference judgements involve a network of structures within frontal, cingulate and insula cortices

Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Mar;29(5):1047-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06646.x.


Environmental stimuli constantly compete for human attention and in many cases decisions are made based on the affective meaning they convey. Although the network of structures involved in processing affective value has been well described, the specific contribution of these structures to the process by which affective value guides decision making is less well understood and is the focus of the present study. Thus, subjects read descriptions of individually tailored holidays, varying in incentive value and then made preference judgements, cognitive judgements or no decision. Choices made from an affective perspective, compared with those made from a cognitive perspective, activated a region of the anterior insula/operculum and also the anterior cingulate cortex. Furthermore, activity in perigenual, anterior cingulate cortex was correlated with subjective ratings of incentive value. In contrast, medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and a region of posterior ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), bordering on the insula, were found to be more active when affective stimuli guided response selection than when no selection was made. However, only the activity in the ventrolateral PFC was specific to response selection based on affective compared with cognitive judgements. It is proposed that the necessary introspection required to make subjective preference judgements is provided by the insula and cingulate cortices, while the medial OFC and posterior ventrolateral PFC/insula cortices contribute to stimulus evaluation and motivational aspects of response selection, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult